Sunak Will Extend Furlough Program in U.K. Budget, Minister Says
(Bloomberg) -- Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak will announce an extension to the furlough wage support program in his budget on Wednesday, as part of his plan to help the U.K. economy as it recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.
“The chancellor has already indicated that we will be extending furlough,” Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said on BBC television on Tuesday. “It’s vital at this time that we provide the support that people will require.”
Kwarteng’s comment is the most explicit sign yet from the government that the furlough policy will continue beyond its scheduled expiry date at the end of April.
While Sunak has pledged to keep supporting workers until the economy has fully re-opened, he’s stopped short of saying what form that aid will take. Under Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s strategy for a gradual lifting of lockdown restrictions, some businesses will be forced to remain closed until June 21 at the earliest.
Sunak on Sunday promised “to support people and businesses along that path” of reopening, saying there’s “more to come” on his various assistance packages at the budget.
The chancellor’s program pays furloughed workers up to 80% of their wages, capped at 2,500 pounds ($3,480) a month, and is scheduled to expire at the end of April. The most recent statistics show that as of Jan. 31, some 4.7 million workers were still on furlough.
Since the program began operations last April, a total of 11.2 million jobs have been supported, peaking at 8.9 million on May 8. The program has paid out almost 54 billion pounds.
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